As Inland Northwest hospitals surge with COVID patients, pediatric needs also rising | Local News | Spokane | The Pacific Northwest Inlander

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Samantha Wohlfeil photo

Kootenai Health is one of the Inland Northwest hospitals concerned about the care of pediatric COVID patients as the current increase in hospital admissions is leading to more children becoming so sick that they need that care.

At the same time as adult COVID-19 patients are flooding the Inland Northwest’s hospitals at record pace, children are also being hospitalized with the virus more often than at any other time during the pandemic.

Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital has had an average of 10 pediatric COVID patients per day for the past month.

Not only is that an unusually high number of children requiring hospitalization at the same time with the same illness, it can also delay other pediatric surgeries and procedures.

“We’ve had to pause some pediatric surgeries at our hospital that don’t show up. This is directly impacted by the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 and ongoing staffing issues across the hospital,” said Ariana Lake, a spokeswoman for Providence , via email . “We are treating more patients under the age of 18 for COVID-19 during this pandemic than ever before, some requiring intensive care.”

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Photo courtesy of Shriners Hospitals

Derrek Hidalgo, director of patient care and chief nurse at Shriners in Spokane.

Nearby Spokane Shriners Hospital offers orthopedic surgery for children who sometimes have rare bone conditions and other medical needs.

But before their skilled team of doctors and surgeons perform a procedure, they also need to make sure there’s room in Sacred Heart, which has a pediatric intensive care unit, should something go wrong during surgery, explains Derrek Hidalgo, director of patient care and head nurse for Shriners.

“The biggest impact we have is that when you have a patient that needs surgery, there’s always a chance that something could go wrong,” Hidalgo says. “It could be a reaction to anesthesia, or something they have co-morbidities with in their health care history that we weren’t aware of.”

If the pediatric ICU at the Sacred Heart is overstretched or understaffed, Shriners must postpone surgeries that may be considered elective, but which in many cases are necessary to significantly improve a child’s quality of life.

Testing positive for COVID may also delay a child’s Shriners surgery, Hidalgo says. If possible, Shriners may request that surgery be performed at Sacred Heart, but if it is not an urgent need, the patient may be asked to isolate and retest for 14 days to see if they can schedule the surgery.

Should Washington reach the point that Idaho has already reached and find the need to promulgate crisis standards for care, Shriners could serve as an overflow space to take on non-COVID pediatric patients and help meet the needs of neighboring hospitals. determine, says Hidalgo.

They could also help with staff shortages at the other facilities.

Shriners staff were notified on Sept. 14 that if they wanted to help at other facilities, Shriners’ human resources would work to streamline the process of getting them approved to work at those other facilities if necessary, Hidalgo says .

“We have a population of children who are not old enough to receive the vaccines that are currently available,” Hidalgo says. “Social distancing, masking and getting a vaccination works. I would encourage everyone to definitely mask, social distancing and be aware of their neighbors and the community and let’s keep each other safe.”

At Kootenai Health hospital in Coeur d’Alene, pediatricians made a similar urgent request to the community on Wednesday, Sept. 22, asking everyone to wear masks and get vaccinated if eligible. They mainly asked parents to personally mask their children who are now going to school.

As Kootenai prepares to care for up to 15 pediatric COVID patients at a time, that’s not a point they hope to ever reach.

“Hopefully it doesn’t come to that worst-case scenario,” Dr. Vanessa Carroll, medical director of pediatrics at Kootenai Health, said during the news conference Wednesday afternoon. “We recognize that children benefit greatly from personal learning for so many reasons, but it has to be done safely.”

Other pediatricians shared that in recent weeks they have seen a sharp rise in COVID patients as young as a few weeks old. They compared vaccination to using seat belts for yourself and your children: you can think of it as an extra layer of protection when needed.

Although most cases in children are fortunately not that serious, Carroll says that hospitalization is required in some cases.

“We recommend universal masking in schools, environmental cleaning, keeping a physical distance of at least one meter,” says Carroll, “and if you’re sick, stay home and get tested.”

To learn more about how local health workers are being impacted by the increase in hospitalizations, visit Thursday morning, or find this week’s printed issue on newsstands now.

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